The various litanies, frequent in that rite, generally have YAWa as their response, either singly or triply. Some petitions in these litanies will have twelve or even forty repetitions of the phrase as a response.
The phrase is the origin of the Jesus Prayer, beloved by Christians of that rite and increasingly popular amongst Western Christians.
...give thanks to the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endures for ever...
The prayer is simultaneously a petition and a prayer of thanksgiving; an acknowledgment of what God has done, what God is doing, and what God will continue to do. It is refined in the Parable of The Publican (Luke 18:9-14), "God, have mercy on me, a sinner", which shows more clearly its connection with the Jesus Prayer.
Since the early centuries of Christianity, the Greek phrase, Kýrie, eléison, is also extensively used in the Coptic (Egyptian) Christian liturgy, which uses both the Coptic and the Greek language.
In the cultures of East Slavs, its adaptation also gave rise to the word of gratitude (Russian: Спасибо, Spasibo) through a rough interpretation Save, God.
In Western Christianity
In Rome, the sacred Liturgy was first celebrated in Greek. As Christianity gained popularity, the Roman Mass was translated into Latin, but the familiar and venerated Greek prayer Kýrie, eléison was preserved, as were Hebrew phrases such as "Alleluia" and "Hosanna". Jungmann and other scholars conjecture that the Kyrie in the Roman Mass is a vestige of a litany at the beginning of the Mass, like that of some Eastern churches.
As early as the sixth century, Pope Gregory the Great notes that there were differences in the way in which eastern and western churches sang Kyrie. In the eastern churches all sing it at the same time, whereas in the western church the clergy sing it and the people respond. Also the western church sang Christe eleison as many times as Kyrie eleison.
In the Roman Rite liturgy, a variant, Christe, eléison, a transliteration of Greek Χριστέ, ἐλέησον, is introduced. In the Tridentine Mass form of that rite, Kýrie, eléison is sung or said three times, followed by a threefold Christe, eléison and by another threefold Kýrie, eléison. In the Paul VI Mass form, each invocation is made only once by the celebrating priest or by a cantor, with a single repetition, each time, by the congregation. Even if Mass is celebrated in the vernacular, the Kyrie may be in Greek. This prayer occurs directly following the Penitential Rite or is incorporated in that rite as one of the three alternative forms provided in the Roman Missal. The Penitential Rite and Kyrie may be replaced by the Rite of Sprinkling.
"Kyrie, eleison" (or "Lord, have mercy") may also be used as a response of the people to intentions mentioned in the Prayer of the Faithful.
Since 1549, Anglicans have normally sung or said the Kyrie in English. In the 1552 Book of Common Prayer, the Kyrie was inserted into a recitation of the Ten Commandments. Modern revisions of the Prayer Book have restored the option of using the Kyrie without the Commandments. In modern Anglican churches, it is common to say (or sing) either the Kyrie or the Gloria in Excelsis Deo, but not both. In this case, the Kyrie may be said in penitential seasons like Lent and Advent, while the Gloria is said the rest of the year. Anglo-Catholics, however, usually follow Roman norms in this as in most other liturgical matters.
Other denominations also, such as Lutheranism, use "Kyrie, eleison" in their liturgies.
Of 226 catalogued Gregorian chant melodies, 30 appear in the Liber Usualis. In what are presumed to be the oldest versions, the same melody is repeated for the first eight iterations, and a variation used on the final line (that is, formally, aaa aaa aaa'). These repeats are notated by the Roman numerals "iij" (for three times) or "ij" (for twice). The Kyrie for the Requiem Mass in the Liber Usualis has this form. Later Kyries have more elaborate patterns, such as aaa bbb aaa', aaa bbb ccc', or aba cdc efe'. Note that the final line is nearly always modified somewhat; in some cases this may be because it leads into the Gloria better. In forms both with and without literal repeats, most Kyries in the Liber Usualis have a closing phrase used in nearly all of the lines of the text. This in fact parallels the text, as each line ends with the same word "eleison".
Because of the brevity of the text, Kyries were often very melismatic. This encouraged later composers to make tropes out of them, either by adding words to the melisma (as how a sequence is often considered), or extending the melisma. In fact, because of the late date of most Kyries, it is not always clear whether a particular Kyrie melody or the apparently troped text came first; it could just as easily be the case that a syllabic song was converted into a melisma for a Kyrie verse. In some cases, verses interpolate Latin text between each "Kyrie" (or "Christe") and "eleison".
The introductory words “Kýrie Eléison” from the Kyriale Mass XI, Orbis Factor
As the Kyrie is the first item in settings of the mass ordinary and the second in the requiem mass (the only mass proper set regularly over the centuries), nearly all of the thousands of composers over the centuries who have set the ordinaries of the mass to music have included a Kyrie movement.
The transliteration of ἐλέησον as "eléison" shows that the non-classical itacist pronunciation of the Greek letter eta (η) is used. Although the Greek words have seven syllables (Ký-ri-e, e-lé-i-son), pronunciations as six syllables (Ký-ri-e, e-léi-son) or five (Ký-rie, e-léi-son) have been used. Text underlay in mediaeval and Renaissance music attests that "Ký-ri-e-léi-son" (five syllables) was the most common setting until perhaps the mid-16th century. William Byrd's mass for four voices is a notable example of a musical setting originally written with five syllables in mind, later altered for six syllables.
The band Mr. Mister released the single "Kyrie" in late 1985. The song was covered by East To West in 1993, and by AVB in 1994. Clay Aiken has also performed the song during tours. Mark Schultz remixed the single in his 2002 album Song Cinema. The British artist DJ Rap produced a UK 'Ardkore single in 1992 by the name of "Divine Rhythm" which heavily sampled the intro and vocal from Mr. Mister's single "Kyrie".
In the film Excalibur, the musical score for Arthur's wedding to Guinevere is a Kyrie.
In Disney's 1996 film The Hunchback of Notre Dame, "Kyrie, eleison" can be heard in some musical numbers and songs. Most prominently, it is repeated in the background chorus of the "Hellfire" portion of "Heaven's Light/Hellfire", and in the background chorus of "The Bells of Notre Dame".
In the movie Matrix Reloaded, during the epic chase scene, the choir chants 'Kyrie Eleison' just before Morpheus blasts the Twins into oblivion.
In the 1996 Broadway musical Rent and its 2004 film adaptation, at the beginning of the number "La vie Boheme", Collins and Roger quote the text of the Kyrie (along with the text of the Dies Irae and the Mourners' Kaddish) as part of a mock requiem for "the death of Bohemia".
In Ever After, "Kyrie eleison" is being sung by the choir during the wedding of Prince Henry to the Spanish princess.
The 2006 anime series Death Note showcased an atmospheric rendition of the Kyrie chant with orchestra and vocals.
In the anime series Elfen Lied, the text "Kyrie, ignis divine, eleison" appears in the title song "Lilium".